ENERGY

City wants CMP to consider alternatives to substation

South Portland officials are scrutinizing a proposal by Central Maine Power Co. to expand a transmission substation on the Fore River – near the Knightville neighborhood and the Casco Bay Bridge – that has sparked concerns about potential public health, environmental and visual impacts. The company has provided few details so far about the project, which is part of a $214 million effort to improve the power transmission system throughout Greater Portland, including substation proposals in Freeport, North Yarmouth, Cumberland, Gray and Portland. The plan to upgrade what’s called the Cape Substation comes as the city tries to control development in its increasingly popular waterfront neighborhoods. City officials want to make sure CMP fully considers so-called “non-transmission alternatives,” such as solar power installations and energy efficiency projects, before state regulators approve the company’s plan to expand the power transmission facility on the 25-acre property. Read the story.

Public advocate skeptical of proposal to ‘harden’ grid

The agency that represents the interests of Maine utility customers is skeptical of a proposal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to “harden” the power grid in the face of increasingly intense storms. Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power Co., will have to justify such a large expenditure over 10 years and ensure that ratepayers won’t bear the lion’s share of the costs, said Public Advocate Barry Hobbins. Avangrid is proposing a $2.5 billion effort in Maine and New York, and at least some of the costs would be borne by ratepayers under the proposal. Gail Rice, spokeswoman for the utility, said cost details are still being sorted out. But she said the company wanted customers to know that a plan is in the works to boost the reliability of the Maine power grid. The power company is involved in a case to recoup some storm cleanup costs from last fall. Nearly 500,000 customers were in the dark at one point, making the number of power outages worse than in the infamous Ice Storm of 1998. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

South Portland OKs plan to upgrade, expand pier

South Portland officials are going forward with an estimated $1.2 million plan to upgrade and expand the Portland Street Pier, hoping to make the most of a long-neglected municipal asset, but stopping short of expanding it into a much larger year-round facility. The City Council picked the least expensive of four redevelopment options included in a new feasibility report, which also found growing need for an improved municipal pier that would better serve both commercial fishing and an increasing number of aquaculture users. Five of seven city councilors tentatively endorsed a $900,000 redevelopment option last week, bypassing three more expensive options ranging from $7.4 million to $12.1 million, Mayor Linda Cohen said. The low-cost redevelopment option would retain, rehabilitate and slightly expand the existing pier, storage building and 15 boat slips on seasonal floating finger docks. Read the story.

Portland’s Danforth Inn on market for $2.59 million

The Danforth Inn in Portland is for sale for nearly $2.6 million. The nine-bedroom luxury inn, located at 163 Danforth St., avoided foreclosure in March when the owners, Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest, filed for bankruptcy. That month, they also closed Tempo Dulu and Opium, the restaurant and bar inside the inn, citing marginal profits and lack of potential for growth. Brunyanszki said at the time that the high-end Southeast Asian restaurant was “just too niche” for Portland. The inn, a Federal-style mansion built in 1823, is on the market for $2.59 million. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHING

Luke’s Lobster opens operation on Portland Pier

Luke’s Lobster is opening a wholesale seafood buying and shipping operation on the Portland Pier in the space formerly occupied by New Meadows Lobster. Luke’s said it has entered into a long-term lease at 60 Portland Pier, the former site of New Meadows Lobster, which shut down at the end of 2017. Luke’s said it would begin lobster buying and shipping operations last week to ensure that there is no lapse in commercial fishing activity in the downtown area, and to provide Luke’s lobstermen partners an immediate economic opportunity. The company also has plans to improve 60 Portland Pier as a berthing location for lobstermen, the company said in a news release. Founded in 2009, Luke’s Lobster operates 29 seafood shacks across the country. In March, former Portland Pier owner DiMillo’s on the Water sold the property to Portland Pier Holdings, a Portland-based real estate company that has owned property on Portland Pier for more than 20 years. Portland Pier Holdings CEO Jim Hanley said the partnership with Luke’s and local fishermen will protect and preserve the working waterfront. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Winxnet merges with K&R, will remain in Portland

Winxnet Inc., an information technology outsourcing and consulting firm based in Portland, has merged with K&R Network Solutions Inc., a San Diego-based technology firm with expertise in automation and technical integration. Winxnet co-founder and CEO Chris Claudio said in an interview Tuesday that the merged company will be based in Portland and he will be its CEO. He said the core staff of both companies, including their leadership teams, will remain intact. Claudio said the transaction is best characterized as a merger and not an acquisition. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. There are no immediate plans to cut staff or change the name of either operation, he said. Winxnet is the larger of the two companies with a staff of about 90, while K&R has a staff of about 40, he said. Read the story.

MDI lab’s president gets $12 million research grant

MDI Biological Laboratory President Kevin Strange has been awarded a five-year, $12 million National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence grant to continue research on tissue and organ regeneration. The funding will support the continued growth and development of the Kathryn W. Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, which was founded by Strange in 2012, the Bar Harbor-based lab said in a statement. The highly competitive “phase two” grant follows a $13 million “phase one” grant that Strange was awarded by NIH in 2013. It reflects the center’s research and development successes thus far and the potential for its continued growth and progress, MDI said. The 2013 grant established MDI as a global leader in research into therapies to repair and regenerate lost or damaged tissues and organs, and to delay the onset of age-related degenerative diseases. The designation also has inspired donations from individuals and foundations at a level that has been vital to the institution’s growth and success, the lab said. Read the story.

RETAIL

New L.L. Bean return policy survives challenge in court

A federal court in Illinois has dismissed a lawsuit challenging L.L. Bean’s new, more limited, return policy. Bean customer Victor Bondi filed the lawsuit in February, three days after Bean ended its unlimited return policy, saying it had been abused by customers returning worn-out shirts, boots, jackets and other goods. The company’s new policy is to accept returns on items purchased in the previous year or if there has been a manufacturing defect. U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman dismissed the suit, saying Bondi was simply anticipating that the Freeport-based retailer would no longer honor its “100 percent satisfaction” return policy for items bought prior to Feb. 9, when the company announced its new policy and that he couldn’t prove he or anyone else had been harmed. Gettleman said the company’s statement about the new policy never included language that suggested it applied to items purchased under the old return policy. Read the story.

AGRICULTURE

Fire damages tasting area at Auburn apple orchard

Firefighters from four departments quickly tamped down flames at Wallingford’s Fruit House in Auburn on Thursday morning after fire started in the hard-cider tasting area and spread to a storage barn one day before the tasting area was to open for the season. By Thursday afternoon, Perkins Ridge Road was back open, as was Wallingford’s retail shop. Spokesman Peter Ricker said a new tasting area would probably be ready in about a week. The orchard, which is owned by the Wallingford family, is leased and managed by Ricker Hill Orchards in Turner, which has been growing apples since 1803. Damage from the fire was estimated at $50,000. Read the story.